Saturday, December 29, 2007

Former Priest Describes His 'Spiritual Journey'

Excerpt from 'Arab News'..

Ali Guatamala, a former priest, came to perform Haj along with 17,000 other U.S. Muslims.

According to a report in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper, Severedoo Royes (Guatemala's Christian name) was attracted to Islam after he read the opening verse in the chapter Al-Baqara (The Cow) of the Holy Qur'an.

He said conversion to Islam had changed his whole life. "After graduating from the seminary, I worked as a priest in Queen City, southern United States, and I used to engage in missionary work in prisons," said Guatemala.

In order to improve his missionary skills, Royes started reading books on other religions, including the Holy Qur'an. "It was a turning point of my life," he said.

"When I read the first verse of Chapter Al-Baqara: 'This Book, there is no doubt in it, is a guidance to the pious,' it struck my mind. I pondered about this verse, which gave me the impression that the author was speaking clearly and definitely without having any doubt."

Guatamala said he had found a lot of contradictions in Christianity while studying at the seminary, adding that senior priests were unable to provide satisfactory answers to his questions.

They advised me not to read the Qur'an branding it Satan's work. This increased my interest in the Qur'an and I found that it was not the work of a human being," he said.

Guatemala prayed to God to show him the right path. "One day, when I left home I found a man in thobe going to the mosque for prayer. His name was Salim Baaqeel. I went with him to the mosque and noticed that there are no ceremonial rituals in Muslim prayers as in Christianity... After that I visited the mosque daily for a week," he explained.

"While I was sitting in the mosque, a person came to me and offered to teach me how to do 'wudu' (ablution). I thought that it was a kind of black magic but he explained to me that it was for purification before prayer. On that day I declared my decision to embrace Islam at the mosque." he added.

Ever since he became a Muslim, Guatemala has been facing a lot of pressure from his family, including his sister, who is Jewish. "She used to frighten me by saying that Muslims would kill me... Her attitude changed after she observed positive changes in my life. When I informed her about my plan to perform Haj, she asked me to bring a souvenir from Makkah for her," he said.

Haj was a wonderful experience for Guatamala. "I consider this spiritual journey as the best days in my life. In gave me great pleasure when I learned that the places where I spent during haj had the footprints of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). I cannot explain my strong feelings when I saw the Holy Kaaba for the first time with my naked eyes."

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Al-Asheikh calls for the Unity of Muslims

Excerpt from an article in 'arab news'.

Saudi Arabia's Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Asheikh lashed out in his Arafat sermon at enemies of the Islamic world for targeting the faith and livelihood of Muslims.

Delivering the annual Haj sermon, he called upon Muslims to hold fast to their faith. "If the Ummah (Islamic Nation) returns to its religion, no force in the world will be able to defeat it," he said.

The enemies have been targeting the Ummah in its faith. They are aiming at its economy and are attempting to annex it to their economic system, he said.

"The Ummah is being targeted... on its values, morals and culture," said the mufti, the Kingdom's top Islamic scholar. However, he said that Muslims had contributed to this by abandoning the fundamentals of their faith.

The mufti warned against the dangers surrounding the Ummah and the efforts of its enemies to pounce on Muslim nations, exploit their wealth and create divisions among them.

Al-Asheikh blasted the enemies of the Ummah for recruiting young Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks."Every Muslim rejects these acts of terrorism," the mufti said and urged Muslims all over the world not to allow people having evil and sick minds to create chaos and confusion in their countries. "We have to tackle this problem by joining hands. This is a dangerous virus that targets truth and creates division and destruction," he added.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Hajj experience

Alhamdulillah, had the opportunity to perform hajj this year.

Decided to choose a more adventurous route for the experience.. Nope, didn't walk the whole way(though there were quite a number of pilgrims who did this)..

Instead, 4 of us travelled to Mina then Arafat then Muzdalifah and back to Mina by scooter. Those 50-60 km/hr ones. It was quite tricky too riding wearing the two pieces of white cloth but alhamdulillah, nothing seriously embarassing happened.

Was it legal? Hm, not really but thats the way it is here, especially during hajj period. By right, we can't go around scooting on highways and main roads, however only for hajj period, the police won't do anything if they see scooters going around for hajj. Hmm, i imagined that if we'd rode like that back home and got caught for the traffic offences made, we'd probably be banned from riding for life!

Thankfully, the journey was smooth sailing mostly. It was good considering the very low cost and time saved from traffic jams. Wouldn't recommend it though.

We faced challenges like searching for water source and toilets, spots to pitch our tents and food. Even when there's toilets, the queue would be a line of 6 or more at peak hours which is most of the period. But of course there are certain periods where its ok. So food management and water intake control is important. But alhamdulillah, we managed without much difficulty and managed to do all the rituals, sunnah or obligatory. I cant imagine how others who backpacked like us managed, some without transport, with thier wives and children.

Currently at Mina sitting by the side of a road with thousand others while typing this using my n70.. SubhanAllah, the wonders of technology. Hm, insya Allah if I have a chance to perform hajj again next year, maybe i'd try a different way by following a travel agency.. No worries but at a hefty price.. the 'finer side' of hajj. Alhamdulillah for this opportunity..

Eid mubarak to all muslims! Allah is Almighty!